Editorial: Time soon approaching for new goals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Forty percent of public school teachers plan to leave the profession within five years, the highest rate in 15 years, a study by the National Center for Education Information has revealed. Retirement is a key factor for the turnover, meaning school districts will lose a large amount of teaching experience.

It also means the timing is right for a new system to enhance teaching, to reward those who teach well, provide incentive for the brightest and the best to join the teaching ranks and, most importantly, settle on a program which fosters student achievement.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty keynoted such an effort recently, as hundreds of teachers and school administrators gathered to hear about QComp &045; Quality Compensation &045; an $86 million experiment approved last month as part of the sweeping K-12 education bill that provided 4 percent per student increases in each year of the biennium.

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Call it merit pay or performance pay, QComp is more than that. It’s not a program designed to pit teacher against teacher, and may the best one get paid. Rather, it should foster teaching excellence through team learning, spearheaded by master teachers and lead teachers, to raise the bar for everyone.

Pilot school districts are being sought to volunteer for QComp &045; administrators and unions must agree to adopting it after which the district qualifies for $260 more per student in state aid.

The basic change in teacher pay calls for participating districts to end the steps-and-lanes traditional pay scale which reward years of service and college credits earned past a teacher’s initial degree. Instead, local officials are to come up with a plan which measures performance, but that teachers still will never lose pay for missing their goals.

Basic components of QComp include career ladder for teachers, job-embedded professional development, instructional observations and standards-based assessments, measures to determine student growth and alternative compensation and performance pay, with 60 percent of raises based on teacher evaluations and gains by students at the classroom and school levels.

Time for professional development is a must, according to the state Education Department’s implementation manual: &uot;For QComp to be successful, it is critical that time be built into the school day for school leaders to provide relevant and meaningful professional development and for teachers to work collaboratively with each other. Providing team time for teachers to meet to discuss students or to share lesson plans is not enough. Team time needs to relate specifically to the needs of the teachers in successfully delivering instruction to all students

currently enrolled in their classrooms.&uot;

Change is always hard to accept, especially in a system which has been entrenched for decades.

But QComp offers promise in both teacher professional development and student achievement. It ought to be given a chance.

(The Bemidji Pioneer)